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Moms with babies need to be safe with food

Expectant mothers and those preparing food for them should be especially diligent when following safe food handling recommendations. Any illness a pregnant woman contracts can affect her unborn child, whose immune system is too immature to fight back.

Here are a few food safety tips:

- Never eat raw meat -- such as steak tartare (a raw hamburger dish) -- poultry or seafood, especially raw oysters and clams.

- Do not eat raw or undercooked eggs and any food containing them such as Caesar salad, mousse, some custards, homemade ice cream and homemade mayonnaise.

- Do not drink raw or unpasteurized milk or foods made from raw milk.

- Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue and Mexican-style soft white types, such as queso blanco and queso fresco.

- Avoid food from deli counters and thoroughly reheat lunchmeats and hot dogs.

- Make sure food is thoroughly cooked.

- Before eating stuffing cooked inside whole poultry, be sure it has reached 165 degrees.

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LISTERIA MONOCYTOGENES

Listeria Monocytogenes, a foodborne bacteria, can cause miscarriage and illness in newborns. Listeria has been found in unpasteurized milk, imported soft cheese, hot dogs, lunchmeats and spreads.

To control Listeria, refrigerate any food marked "refrigerate." Do not buy or use foods that are past their "use-by" dates.

Do not keep sealed, unopened lunchmeats or spreads more than two weeks. Do not eat soft cheeses, refrigerated meat spreads or refrigerated smoked seafood (canned are safe).

Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats or deli meats unless they are reheated until they are steaming hot.

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METHYLMERCURY IN FISH

Seafood can be an important part of a balanced diet for pregnant women.

It is a good source of high-quality protein and other nutrients and is low in fat.

However, methylmercury in fish, if eaten regularly, can harm an unborn child's or a young child's developing nervous system.

Always follow the advice of your doctor or health care provider.

The Food and Drug Administration has recommended the following guidelines for pregnant women and small children:

- Avoid eating large fish that can possibly contain high levels of methylmercury (shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish).

- Eat up to 12 ounces (two average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury. Five commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish.

- Albacore ("white") tuna and tuna steaks have more mercury than canned light tuna. Limit albacore tuna and tuna steaks to six ounces (one average meal) per week.

- Limit freshwater fish caught by family and friends to one meal (six ounces for an adult, two ounces for a young child) a week of cooked fish, and don't consume any other fish that week.

For more information about the levels of mercury in specific types of fish, see the FDA food safety Web site at www.cfsan.fda.gov/(TILDE)frf/sea-mehg.html.

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